School librarians read writing on the wall: Jobs are disappearing as the budget crisis deepens


Since few state or federal laws mandate school libraries or librarians, and their job losses are small compared with classroom teacher layoffs, library layoffs may seem minor to some observers. But librarians say few administrators or parents understand how involved they are in classroom learning and school technology. A trip to the school library may be a weekly highlight for children who love to read, but for kids from low-income families, it's more of the necessity than a treat, according to literacy experts and the librarians who help kids struggling in high school without a home computer.

Unlike the overflowing bookshelves of wealthier families, 61 percent of low-income families own no age-appropriate books, according to a 2009 study commissioned by Jumpstart on "America's Early Childhood Literacy Gap." They depend on libraries to keep them from falling behind in school. While the American Association of School Librarians says some states like California, Michigan and Arizona have been hit especially hard, a map of cutbacks on the organization's website shows jobs are disappearing across the nation. "We're doing a disservice to our kids, especially those in poverty, if we don't have the resources they need," said association president Cassandra Barnett, who is also the school librarian at the Fayetteville, Ark., High School library.

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